River Retreat Garaku was designed by the prominent Japanese architect Hiroshi Naito. When he began working on Garaku, Naito felt that he was designing not just a hotel, but an intimate retreat for the owner, Mr. Yoshinori Ishizaki, to invite his friends. “The relationship”, he says, “between Ishizaki and me is not that between a client and an architect but one between an owner and a collaborator. I made the drawings to express his thoughts”.
As a primary element Naito decided to incorporate the traditional azekura style of Japanese architecture. For more than 1000 years this distinctive “square log” style has been used for buildings like storehouses and granaries. Where azekura characteristically employs joined log structures made of square cyprus timbers, at Garaku these traditional architectural elements become modern art in the form of impressive square ribs of pre-cast concrete, creating a mesmerizing repetitive pattern of light and shadow which soars upwards within the interior spaces.
Another traditional influence on this modern architectural masterpiece is the refined and elegant Japanese sukiya architectural style associated with the tea ceremony which informs the serene interior spaces. Naito also eliminated the typical hand railing around the outside of hotel so that the hotel appears directly connected to the water and river valley, bringing nature into the living spaces.
Hiroshi Naito was born in 1950 in Yokohama and received his M. Arch from the Graduate School of Waseda University. At Wasada he studied with the famous Japanese architect Takamasa Yoshizaka, who collaborated with Le Corbusier. Naito was the chief architect at Fernand Higueras in Madrid, Spain, and worked at Kikutake Architects in Tokyo before establishing Naito Architect & Associates in 1981. In 2001 he became a professor at The University of Tokyo Graduate School. He served as Executive Vice President of The University of Tokyo until 2011 and has been Emeritus Professor and Senior Advisor to the Office of the President of The University of Tokyo since 2011.
Hiroshi Naito has won numerous architectural awards. His major works include the Sea-Folk Museum (Mie, 1992), Chihiro Art Museum Azumino (Nagano, 1997), Makino Museum of Plants and People (Kochi, 1999), Fuji RINRI Seminar House (Shizuoka, 2001), River Retreat Garaku ANNEX (Toyama, 2002), Shimane Arts Center (Shimane, 2005), Hyugashi Station (Miyazaki, 2008), Kochi Station (Kochi, 2009), TORAYA Kyoto (Kyoto, 2009), and Asahikawa Station (Hokkaido, 2011).